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Before Upper Deck, these cards were the “premium” brand

Donruss was ahead of its time in 1986. Topps was for the traditional collectors. Fleer was a little harder to find than Topps, but at the time seemed a bit bland. Donruss, though…

Runnells 1986 Donruss

Look at those blue and black stripes! And the slanted name! I don’t care that I’ve never heard of Tom Runnells, these cards were fancy and futuristic!

Am I the only one that felt this way?

I remember going to a baseball card and comic book show somewhere in Ohio, maybe Dayton or Columbus, with a friend in 1986. It was a long car ride, and I didn’t have a whole lot of money to spend. I spied a 1986 Donruss Dwight Gooden card, and the dealer priced it at $3 if memory serves. $3 for a non-rookie card. Nothing released by Topps approached that! You could get Topps packs at the convenience store or gas station, but Donruss? Not a chance! Packs were more expensive, and singles were more expensive, because they were not as readily available as Topps.

I didn’t buy the Gooden card. I have no clue what I did end up buying on that trip, if anything. It was a long time before I acquired many 1984-1986 Donruss cards. I now own most of them, missing only a handful from 1984 (Dave Concepcion Diamond King and the Johnny Bench/Carl Yastrzemski special) and 1986 (Ted Power and Max Venable). They still look futuristic compared to their contemporaries. Of course, the price has dropped considerably on most of those cards, and with the internet, they are easy to obtain on the cheap. Still there is something about them that is timeless.

Topps and Fleer released update sets at the end of the year to showcase veterans that changed teams and rookies. Donruss didn’t care about traded players, but they certainly cared about rookies. Young up-and-coming players who were sure-fire future Hall of Famers like Jose Canseco and Bo Jackson were a hot commodity and Donruss needed to cash in! There was only one Cincinnati player featured in the green-and-black striped 1986 Donruss Rookies set, and it wasn’t Barry Larkin. Tracy Jones was the can’t-miss rookie in the Queen City. But boy, did he ever miss.

1986 Donruss Rookies Jones

Donruss also released a set called “Highlights” featuring gold and black stripes. Monthly award winners, Hall of Fame selections, MVPs, Rookies of the Year, and Cy Young pitchers were all included, as well as record breakers and other newsworthy events. Bill Gullickson, Ernie Lombardi, and Eric Davis all scored cards in the Highlights set. This set seems to have been produced in greater quantities and can often be found for a buck or two.

1986 Donruss Highlights Gullickson

Finally, we have the Donruss version of O-Pee-Chee. Leaf cards were the Canadian version of Donruss and were produced from 1985 through 1988 with a smaller checklist. Reds catcher Bo Diaz is one of only eight “regular” Reds cards that made it into the Leaf set.


Donruss also released a set of supersized All-Star cards in 1986 that were as big as two regular cards placed side-by-side. According to my wantlist, I have the Pete Rose card but I’m missing Dave Parker. I think I do have Parker also, but those cards are still in a shoebox somewhere and I’m not supposed to bend over right now because I’m still recovering from back surgery I had in September.

Happy Reds birthday, Bo Diaz!

Bo Diaz

March 23, 1953

This is a popular week for catchers to be born! Bo Diaz was an All-Star for the Reds in 1987, hitting .270 with 15 home runs and 82 RBI. He was the National League Player of the Month in July, hitting .351 with 5 homers and 23 RBI. Had he played at that pace the entire season, he would have hit 34 longballs and drove in 156 runs. I remember reading the blurb in the Cincinnati Post about Diaz’s death in 1990 after he was killed while adjusting a satellite dish on his roof. Diaz was inducted into the Venezuelan Baseball Hall of Fame in 2006

What does the rulebook say?

When the catcher drops a third strike, the batter can attempt to reach first base before the ball is thrown to the fielder. But what if the batter incidentally kicks the ball out of the catcher’s reach and beats the throw? This happened during a game in Cincinnati between the Reds and Mets in 1987. With Howard Johnson at the plate, Bo Diaz dropped a third strike. The ball rolled to Johnson’s feet, and when he realized what was going on HoJo took off running. As he did, the ball shot out into the infield, where pitcher Ron Robinson picked it up and attempted to throw him out. But the ball hit Johnson before it reached Tony Perez, and Johnson was ruled safe.

Fast-forward this video to the 2:38:00 mark and watch it unfold…

As you can see in the video, Pete Rose, Ron Oester, Dave Parker, and several other Reds players argued the call. But the umpire’s ruling was final, and HoJo remained at first.

Will instant replay end these types of on-field “discussions” between managers and umpires? Cincinnati hasn’t seen a manager argue with the umpire much in recent years, as Dusty Baker preferred to gnaw on his toothpicks. But even with a potentially more aggressive manager in the dugout, will these interactions be a thing of the past?

Fun Cards: 1985 Topps Traded Bo Diaz

Bo Diaz was a teammate of Pete Rose‘s in Philadelphia in ’82 and ’83. I wonder if Charlie Hustle pulled some strings to bring the catcher to Cincinnati? He had been an All-Star for Cleveland in 1981 and would make the squad again while with the Reds in 1987. It’s ironic that one of the guys traded for Diaz in 1985 was Alan Knicely, who was one of only two players pictured in a Reds uniform in the actual 1985 Topps Traded set.

Diaz passed away in November, 1990, while adjusted a satellite dish on his roof. He was only 37 years old.

eBay bargains (The Final Chapter…for now)

The big package came today…nearly 60 cards featuring Bengals…

and Reds…

guys who had previously been Reds…

guys who had not yet been but would be Reds…

guys who were never Reds but I would have really liked it if they had been…

guys who are in the Hall of Fame

guys who are in the Reds Hall of Fame

guys who should be in both Halls of Fame…

guys who should be in neither (although he should have been the manager in 2000)…

guys who some think would be in the Hall of Fame if not for injuries…

guys who are banned from the Tracy Jones Fan Club

and guys on Canadian cardboard…

There was one slight problem with the order concerning a 1990 Ken Griffey Jr. card, listed as O-Pee-Chee but it was actually Topps. According to Wikipedia, “In 1990 O-Pee-Chee printed a set virtually identical to the 792 card Topps set complete with the Topps logo. The only differences between the two are the bilingual reverse sides and the copyright line.” The card I received was clearly the Topps version, so I contacted the seller. Within seconds, he responded stating my money ($1.26) had been refunded for that purchase and to keep the card.

That’s a great seller. He has a bunch of other stuff listed right now, so go check out his shop and buy some stuff from him.

SLTB ’88: Bo Diaz

Bo Diaz was a 1987 All-Star for the Reds, and was solid behind the plate when healthy. He was tragically killed in 1990 while installing a satellite dish in Venezuela at the age of 37.

The one thing I like about Braves fans…

…is that they don’t mind sending me Reds cards! Dayf pulled a few Reds in 2010 packs and sent them and other Reds cards on to me in a very non-Bip fashion (which I appreciate, although I wouldn’t complain if I got some of Bip’s Reds cards).

The Topps design has really grown on me, while Upper Deck just gets uglier every time I look at it.

Dayf also sent along some older Redlegs…

And these playing cards are awesome. I’ve seen a few, but this is the first time I saw I saw the Nasty Boys Wild Card. Very appropriate.

And Dayf knows that Bo knows Reds fans. No, not Bo Jackson…Bo Diaz!

Thanks Dayf!

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